Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sanding our floors

So, our house is not painted yet but should be in the next week.  We did go with the color 'Muddled Basil,' in case that is keeping you up at night!  It is the darker one on the right window.  I think it will be very dramatic and different when it's all done, rather than the lighter and more 'safe' Gloucester Sage on the left. 
We just had a week of hell completing a floor refinishing project while Ashford was away at grandma's house.  Our existing floors were in rough shape.  Deep gouges, scratches, bare spots with no finish that were gray from water damage, even some writing with Sharpie! 
There was also some creative trim work in the living room.  At some point, someone added ceramic tile on top of the original vinyl and then trimmed out the tiles, which is all fine and good - even though I wouldn't have picked this tile, or extended it this far into the room.  It's fine, I'm not worried about changing it.  I do, however, have an issue with the yahoo who put baseboard right on top and then left a big space underneath.  It looked ridiculous!
The trim in the living room is completely different from the rest of the house.  The majority of the house has typical 70's dark stained ranch casing and baseboard, while this room has 'builder special' prefinished oak in the little colonial profile that is not even 3 inches tall.  All of it was ripped out, and I spent some quality time walking this little piece around the house marveling at how it matched almost nothing.   
Oh, except these ugly bifold doors on our coat closet, which I'm sure were put in at the same time!
Well, the base trim was all ripped out (along with a lot of drywall, thanks to Shaun's lack of finesse) and we got ready to sand.
We have always used an orbital sander, because they are easier to use, easier to change the paper and there is less potential for damage to the floor.  We tried to get a drum sander this time around because we are fairy experienced and wanted the job done asap.  It didn't work out.  We couldn't even get the very first piece of sandpaper to firmly attach to the drum, and since the rental place didn't give much insight to the problem, Shaun took it back and got the orbital pad sander seen below.  So, the sanding took TWO FULL DAYS. 
It is easy, but takes a very long time and is horrible work.  And we made a lot of mistakes because we were in a big hurry....like changing grits too soon on the big sander, and only edging with 40 and then 60 grit.  I also made the mistake of going in after Shaun finished the 100 grit and taking care of little areas we missed in the middle of the floor with 40 grit, creating extra dark spots in the stain.  Don't do that! 
Use 36 grit until you are darn sure you got all the finish off.  Then 60, then 80 (optional) then 100.  If you go back down in grit, your finish will suffer because you will create swirls.  You have to vacuum with a shop vac constantly, the dust hides everything you are trying to remove.  This is the most annoying problem.  I suggest you put clear or regular masking tape on the end of your shop vac, or you will leave black marks all over your nice sanded floor! 
Oh, and a tip....when you think you have the finish off, you don't.  When you think a couple-hours-of-sanding later you have the finish off, you don't.  Just know that you as a DIYer will probably never get the finish off completely and will realize this when you are putting on your stain!  Little strips of old finish will be shining through on the edges of some boards that have cupped over the years.  Of course, this problem is more prevalent with the stupid orbital sander we used, but we just couldn't make the drum happen.  I also tried to get fancy this time and make my own filler for holes in the floor using sanding dust and wood glue.
Meh, it's not worth it.  It looks exactly the same as purchased 'stainable' wood filler when you stain it, and store bought is so much easier to work with! 
This did turn out pretty nice when it was sanded down and stained, but it was very sticky and hard to get into the hole.  Not a fan. 
During this process, we realized how lucky we are to have so many entrances to the living area, and house in general.  It made it much easier to live here while the project was going on.  There is also the added benefit of a great excuse to clean your vents.  Seriously, no wonder my allergies are outrageous here!
I will post later with the stain and poly steps...picking a stain color for this floor won me an award for 'Best Drama,' so you have that to look forward to!


  1. Lots of work, but you will make it wonderful. Keep on...keeping on.

    Hang in there!!! Your posts are hilarious!


  2. Yikes!! Yeah we were able to use a drum sander on ours and most of the finish was stripped during the very first run-through. If you have to do more floors in this house, go to a place with a working drum sander. It will be SO much easier on you!

  3. Sara ... love the muddled basil. It will look great.

    You guys are really barrelling along making this house into a home. The floors will be beautiful.


  4. I'm already seeing light at the end of the tunnel, the floors are going to look amazing. your vent is scaring the crap out of me! lol :)

  5. Yay! It's looking amazing already. Sanding floors as a DIY job is something that is not for the faint of heart. Ryan curses about it every time. But then he must be a glutton for punishment (and you, too), because he keeps doing it. ;)


Thanks so much for reading....your comments mean a lot to me!